elmo neighbors renters sweet relief trash

There’s a Kind of a Hush All Over the World Tonight

They’re out.

Praise the long-armed reach of absentee landlords (take that, Ireland!): the bohunk renters across the alley have been evicted.

After my earlier post about these five college lads’ disruptive partying tendencies, things got worse.

They hit a new high the night that Phat Boy Renter and his Li’l Blondie girl sat outside the house in her car, blaring country music at 17 on the volume dial, drinking beers (the trunk of empties clanked resoundingly each time they finished swigging, got out of the car, tossed the bottle into the bottomless well of its peers, and grabbed another. During this process, a song entitled “Marianne” thumped again and again, hammering out a psychosis-inducing tattoo. On its third go-round, I was certain that, no matter what Marianne had done to earn the gullible singer’s admiration, Bitch Stole My Chips).

Every fifteen minutes or so, to spice up the potential monotony of “drink a beer/toss the empty/ grab a new one,” Phat Boy Renter would lurch out of the car, half-filled bottle in hand, and stagger off to pee in the yard. At one point, another of the renters, this one named Dimwit, pulled up with his girl, and they, too, remained parked outside the house. Dimwit and His Girl were in the middle of a fight, apparently. At one point, Dimwit slammed out of the car and ran down the alley, causing Phat Boy and Blondie to jump out of their car, with Phat Boy chasing Dimwit and Blondie hopping into the second car next to Dimwit’s Girl. Much drama played out before Dimwit eventually meandered back home, twenty minutes later, and retrieved a sleeping bag out of the trunk of his car. His Girl had already taken her sleeping bag from the trunk and gone into the house, but Dimwit took his bag and went and slept on the lawn. (pssst, fellas…a little tip here: you’re paying money to have access to that house; you should take your drinks and sleeps inside the damn place)

All the while, Phat Boy Renter and Blondie counseled and consoled and hit the trunk for fresh beers and kept the tunes a’throbbin’, teaching the entire coulda-been-sleeping neighborhood comprised of young children, pregnant women, and solidly-employed types that–get this!–life is a highway, and those crazy college kids were going to ride it all. night. long.

I witnessed every subtlety of the drama, watching it from my back porch that night, where I lay on the couch, wrapped in a fleece blanket, shivering, yawning, muttering my own private commentary about their ongoing monkeyshine.

From my seat in the loge, all the world was The Renters’ stage from roughly 1:30 a.m. until 3 a.m., when I finally passed out into sleep. The cops, whom I’d called at 1:30 a.m., had still not arrived, denying me the much-hoped-for pleasure of seeing each blockhead receive a “drinking as a minor” citation. As I waited and waited, I wanted to huff around about how the police certainly weren’t doing their jobs that night, but the fact that my city swells by approximately 25,000 college students each August kept me sympathetic. It just might have been, at bar-closing time on a Saturday night in September, that the cops had bigger Alpha Tau Omegas to fry. Eventually, perhaps as the sun rose, Phat Boy and Li’l Blondie and Marianne, hissing, shielded themselves from the light and relinquished themselves to hangover-inducing sleep.

As they do, even when one is fatigued or hungover, the days and weeks passed. The renters, already in possession of one dog, brought back on board the ceaseless barker (of my previous post on this issue). The freshmen dunderknots drank nightly, smoked and called each other “faggot” twenty feet from my children at play during the daylight, and generally brought the vibe of Age 18 Hollister to our gentle neighborhood of Middle-Aged Coldwater Creek. Their antics made it increasingly hard to remain stuffily removed.

But then.
The landlord called.
From Arizona.
Just to check in with us.
To see if everything was going okay.
Ever since he’d given the striplings a cell phone lashing after their inaugural party some weeks before.

Sometimes I have a lot of words. So I used them.

He did okay with the part about “Marianne” and my calling the cops. Clearly, he had never heard “Marianne,” or his outrage would have been more immediate and palpable.

However, when I mentioned the dogs, old Tuscon Tom snapped. DOGS? DOOOOOOGS? DAAAAAAAAWWWGGGGSSSSS?

Seems there was a little clause in the lease that mentioned the words “castration,” “hobbling” and ultimately “eviction,” should any animal ever enter the premises.

Clutching protectively at their ‘nads and ankles, the lads got their notice. They had two weeks to get out.

Two weeks and three days later, they started packing. The whole moving process was like a Three Stooges movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, and Judd Apatow, featuring a guest appearance by Mickey Rourke (Fifth Renter was noticably absent from the proceedings, no doubt drowned in a fifth of a different sort near a bus stop somewhere)…

what with Phat Boy’s only contribution being, inexplicably, to deposit a pair of shoes onto the side lawn–perhaps to mark the spots where he’d drunkenly peed;

Dimwit dragging out various pieces of his possessions to the car–all of them jammed inside a sleeping bag;

Kyle clambering into the trash can in an attempt to stuff in just seven more pizza boxes;

and Joshua fumbling through the long-empty packs of smokes that littered the driveway, seeking out one last puff as he sat on the cooler and considered the asphalt, for quite a very long while, before slowly standing up.

Eventually, after they’d all worked really, really hard, in the fashion of Paris Hilton making her own way in the world, they hopped into their cars and drove away, crashing into whatever unsuspecting neighborhood will be saddled with them next. Call Mommy! Call Daddy! America’s Best had not only lived on their own for the first time; they had also moved out of a place, all on their own, for the first time!

But what they had failed to do, for the first (and certainly not the last) time, was reclaim their security deposit. For three days after their departure, a cleaning lady scoured the place, a handy man came in to repair the holes punched into the walls, and a carpet dude came to pull out the rugs and put in new ones. And that was just the inside work. Here’s a little math problem for you, College Boys:



That crying Native American there? It’s probably for the best that, at the close of this commercial, he stepped out into speeding traffic and was taken down by a mail truck. Had he survived, he’d have needed a full-on box of Kleenex Aloe Vera and a whole new treaty struck with the White Man’s King after looking down into the ravine next door to the now-empty rental–

a ravine, curiously, where the creek was newly dammed

with a couch

and a bookshelf

furniture that had spent the previous three days perched outside, on the porch of the rental, mysteriously “disappearing” (with great ruckus at midnight) just as the knucklebutts left for good.

Suffice it to say, there were more phone calls: to the landlord, to the delinquents (who swore they dinn’t know nuffin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies, Mizz Scarlett!), nearly to the cops. They were given two days to get the furniture out of the ravine. It was out the next day.

And left there, next to the ravine, on the sidewalk.

At this point, while I was still gunning for police work and enormous fines, the beleaguered landlord discovered his inner Native American and decided that instead of continuing to fight past exhaustion and nearly to extinction, he would, in the interests of self-preservation,

step back, let the feckless bastards move on, give them ample time, and feel secure in the knowledge that

the idiots will eventually hang themselves in a web of their own weaving.

If you care to share, click a square:
beef Christmas meat neighbors

The Meathead

Although it’s not January 6th yet, I’ve had an epiphany.

You see, I got to enjoy a revelation this past Christmas week.

It was not a star, a star, shining in the night that drew my focus.

There was no Baby Haysoos in a pile of hay what got my attention.

It was not the fact that the best sales stampedes commence at 6 a.m. on December 26th that made me lurch out of my prone position.

Rather, my eye-opener, my spine-tingler, sprang from a spontaneous moment of generosity out of one of my neighbors. The giver? Generally, he’s an asshat of a wankiedoodle.

In the three years that we’ve lived next door to The Wank, he’s never held a conversation with me about anything but himself. I know his high school hockey team’s winning record (25 years ago); I know where he buys his cars and why they are superior to all other vehicles; I know that he treated himself to a Rush concert for his birthday this year. About me, in return, he knows two things: my name is Jocelyn (in his brain, “Jawsslin”) and—more importantly—I live next door to him.

I would expect such constant self-absorption from someone who’s younger. But he’s 42. I would expect an inability to give and take from a confirmed bachelor, from someone who’s lived alone for three decades, someone who eats his tv dinners with his best friends, the cast of HEROES. But he’s married with two young kids.

However, despite being surrounded by people who need him, he’s engineered his life so that he remains the Star of His Own Stage and Screen. He doesn’t so much talk to his wife or, you know, really look at her. He’s never helped bathe the kids or put them to bed. How could he fit those activities in when there’s guitar playing to be done out on the back deck and when there’s woodworking to be done in the garage?

Wank has mad avoidance skillz.

Annoyed with his character as I am, I generally do the gradual backwards-easing-foxtrot-of-‘I-think-I-hear-one-of-my-children-losing-a-finger-and-thus-must-dash-now’ when he tries to engage in random Wank dialogue about the color he’s going to paint the trim on his house or how he’s been using a new hair-growth-stimulant to fight off the balding.

But he got me the other day. And I was revelated. Epiphanized.

No, he didn’t suddenly prove to be a man of depth and intuition. He’s no Charlie Rose. He’s no Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s no John Stewart.

Not that I have an obsessive crush on any of these uniquely-gifted and strangely-attractive warlocks of lust. Their names randomly—completely without forethought–popped into my noggin. It has nothing to do with the precise intelligence and raw, animal magnetism that rage through their pulsing beings that make a girl weak from elbow to knee. So stop asking, ya big Nosey Nellie.

I was talking about Wank, you’ll remember, and he’s just a lummoxy dolt, not the leader of a talk show or a country or my heart.

Yet this douchebag swayed me in the palm of his hand, gently, for just a minute the other day. And I have to admit, his charm was completely raw and animal.

See, I was over at Wank’s house, chatting with his long-martyred wife, when he entered the living room. Somewhat apologetically, he asked, “Hey, so do you guys eat meat?”

Pretty sure this opener was his way of launching into a story about a bratwurst he had eaten one day during Open Lunch in middle school, I nodded warily. Hell, I eat meat like Amy Winehouse snurffles white powder and wanders around the streets in her bra in the middle of the night. Neither of us wants to be rehabbed for our little problem. Just give me a tender steak and a firm foundation garment, and take your mewling concern elsewhere. We’ll be fine, Amy and me. Just fine.

But Jerk Neighbor actually had a point:

“So I’m really good at bartering. I mean, once I got a cap put on this tooth right here [insert finger into incisor] for $20 after I gave a guy an adjustment,” Chiropractor Wank continued, paying no attention to my tightening body language. “And I just made a killer barter today: one of my clients paid me in half a cow. It’s really good beef, too; it’s grass fed, so it’s all tender and stuff. So, even though I shouldn’t be trying to pawn off meat on you guys, would you want some?”

I waited a beat. Then another. Waiting. Toe tapping. Waiting. Waiting for the price point he was going to assign to the beef in his basement—“and only seven dollars for a ribeye, but I’ll make it two for twelve for you guys.”

It turns out I was waiting for a number that never came.

Instead, Wank clarified, “You’d actually be doing me a big favor if you took some ‘cause I can’t get the freezer closed. You like a roast? I’ll run down and get you one. Just hang on.”

Snap it if he didn’t come back two minutes later toting a plastic grocery bag weighed down by not only a roast but also two T-bone steaks and a pound of hamburger.

Twittering, futzing, shaking, I crumpled to the floor in a faint of delight. Then I laid there for awhile, sopping the tears off my cheeks with my collar. After that, I mentally rewrote my will, making Wank the beneficiary of one of my great-grandmother’s landscape paintings. Next, I lifted up the skirt of their couch and noted all the toy remnants living under there; they had set up a makeshift village and elected Buzz Lightyear mayor.

Finally, I heaved myself up and, with trembling fingers, clutched at the Bag of Beef. I tossed out a few “Hosannahs on the Highest,” kowtowed a little bit, and muttered my thanks in five languages as I stepped out their front door and turned, ebulliently, to cartwheel and fa-la-la my way home through the snowbanks (never once releasing my grip on the Dead Cow of Profound Joy).

While beef is definitely my bag, Christmas never really has been. I don’t respond well to the pressures of expectation and tradition and ritual. Plus, in junior high, I really wanted Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album, and even though I put it on my Christmas list and hung that list on the fridge, I didn’t get it. In fact, I never really got anything off my list; I just got a bunch of clearance junk, the cost of which roughly equaled the price of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album. Common sense says I should have stopped making lists and deadened childish hope, but instead I decided to start dreading Christmas.


Then, this year, with clouds parting and a ray of sunlight spearing down towards earth, Wank gave me the Bag of Beef.

It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. It was unexpected. It was spontaneous. It suited me to a T (-bone). It was thoughtful. It was specific to who I am. It reminded me that people are always more than they seem.

His unanticipated, uncharacteristic gesture–completely bare of snowman wrapping paper and a big silver bow–managed to deck every single one of my complicated maze of halls.

If you care to share, click a square:
dogs neighbors questions



Until recently, we had an extremely yappy dog living next door.

She didn’t live alone, of course. She had handlers.

Interestingly, this family of hers was, in every area outside of pet ownership, an uptight, buttoned-down group of people. Their home and yard were tidy, pristine. Their voices were never raised; indeed, they were emblematic Midwesterners when it came to tightness of emotional expression. They rarely interacted with us or each other. Mostly, they drove up, marched sullenly into the house carrying their bags from the mall, and sat inside, in front of the flickering glow of the television. They were nothing remarkable.

Except that damn dog. Remarkable understates her ability to yap loudly, continually, and relentlessly at 7 a.m. She was equally gifted at 11:00 p.m.

Dog had pipes.

And as she sat in the yard, tethered to the swingset all day, her sharp barks were like leeetle needles pelting into my skin. For the most part, I could ignore her during the colder months, when our house was shut up. However, during the warmer months, there was no shutting up–of our windows, of Zoe the Dog, or of my complaints about her blood-pressure-raising ruckus. On the rare occasion that I’d forget about Zoe, I would invariably also be pushing my children in a stroller down the sidewalk next to her house. Zoe, leashed, would rush us, unleashing a cacophony of aggressive snarls and yips and snertles and choler and froth. Startled out of my gourd, I’d leap three feet into the air and scream loudly; the formerly-blissed-out children would wail with fear.

Dog was a bitch.

On the really bad days, when my muttered complaints turned into out-and-out anger, I pondered how best to deal with this interpersonal issue. Sure, I could have tried addressing it directly with the owners. But I expected, at best, a reaction of agitated and defensive marching into the house, bags from the mall in tow. Even further, the benign nothingness between us could have hardened and frozen into a new Cold War. Or, if they really wanted to push my buttons, they could have started putting Zoe out at 6 a.m. and keeping her there until midnight.

I saw no easy solution, outside of taking back the power: I entertained a Kramer-like plan to ‘nap the pooch and drive it, with my good pal Newman, over a state border, ditching her there.

But I didn’t have a delivery van, or a pal named Newman, and the nearest state border runs across a big bridge, which would mean, for purposes of high drama, I’d have to dump Zoe out of the vehicle from a fifty-foot bridge and let her free fall into Lake Superior.

On some level, that didn’t seem fair retribution for a vastly-annoying dog who had unfortunately fallen into the care of owners who were indifferent about her effect on the neighborhood.

So I fretted. I complained. I tutted. I plotted. No matter what tack my brain took, the whole dilemma always degenerated into an unsolvable moral issue.

Ultimately, I peered into my heart and realized I needed to turn this question over to a Higher Power.

Thus, I found myself, cranky and too-wide-awake one summer morning at 6:45 a.m., cursing the beast that woke me, ruminating:

What would Scooby do?

If you care to share, click a square: